The House Committee on Trade and Industry decided Monday (Nov. 9) to conduct an executive session or a closed-door hearing to further look into the purported sale of illegal drugs via online selling platforms.
The panel, chaired by Valenzuela City 1st District Rep. Weslie Gatchalian gave in to Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez’s call to further look into drug syndicates’ practice of using online selling platforms to perpetrate their illegal drug trade.
“We would like to know how we will go forward, because we can see already that parcels are being advertised using the platform of Lazada. There have already been confiscation and arrest and in fact it was reported by Lazada, for those pinpointed coming from the same seller, these parcels have been segregated and given to the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency),” Rodriguez told the panel during its probe on the reported increasing cases of online fraud and recent spate of internet scams and fake online bookings, including the online sale or distribution of illegal drugs.
“Can we ask if there can be a separate hearing or executive session where we will help the PDEA and law enforcement agencies and Lazada get the proper coordination and resources to combat this misuse. It has been proven that it has been used already. Of course, Lazada has coordinated with the PDEA,” Rodriguez said.
He cited the importance of holding an executive hearing “so that we can fight the use of platforms by unscrupulous people in selling drugs to our people.”
Gachalian gave an affirmative response to Rodriguez’s request. “We will do that,Cong. Rufus,” the House leader assured Rodriguez, even as he directed the Committee Secretariat with the Lazada and the PDEA.
However, the date of the panel’s Zoom-aided executive meeting has yet to de disclosed.
During the hearing, Atty. Joustine Campaña begged off from divulging the details of Lazada’s discovery and turn over of the 3.6 kilos of marijuana to the PDEA.
“Given the sensitivity of this particular case, may we request for an executive session with the Chairman as well as with the PDEA. We have cooperated with their organization in order to help (the government know more about) this case,” he said.
Gatchalian asked Lazada on the status of the case and how Lazada tracked the parcels of marijuana and helped the PDEA.
“In what way did you cooperate? Obviously, hindi nyo naman binebenta, ito ay dumaan lang through your platform (you are not selling this, this just passed through your platform.)
Campaña cited that Lazada was instrumental in “gathering the parcels from the sellers” and have them turned over to the PDEA.
According to him, they intercepted the parcels of illegal drugs after receiving an information from the country’s anti-narcotics operatives.
“It is good to hear the quick response of Lazada on those cases. We see you were able to do that action because obviously you have more capability, resources and technology and this is the reason why we are asking the assistance of online performs in helping out the government,” Gatchalian said.
“Maybe, it’s high time na matulungan ninyo ang (that you can help) government agencies, ang (the) NBI, PDEA in finding a way wherein you yourself can self-regulate, can protect not only the consumers, but yourself,” he added.
PDEA Agent Aida Ferolino disclosed that they have two “recovery operations” wherein Lazada turned over packages containing marijuana on January 8 and January 27.
According to her, PDEA has only have five anti-drug operations using online platforms. “We believe that these online platforms are being utilized by drug syndicates nationwide,” she said.
She relayed to the panel that they received a lot of information that the drug syndicates were using Facebook, Twitter and even dating apps to carry out their illegal drug trade.
“PDEA considers that online and social media platforms are being exploited by drug syndicates or drug personalities for their illegal drug trade and this is the price of the digital development. We all know that drug syndicates would always do anything to succeed in their illegal drug activities,” Ferolino said.
“This pandemic may have caused these drug personalities to innovate and take advantage of online platforms, and this shift in the mode of drug transactions from traditional to face-to-face to the digital means is a huge challenge to PDEA and the law enforcement authorities.”